”Tenet,” May 29, 2021 (2020), DVD with special features.
Chris Nolan does big movies. At 250 million dollars, with filming in six countries, a huge cast and crew, an amazing set of stunts, sets, technological innovations, and grand ideas, this certainly qualifies. He prefers real special effects rather than CGI and some of these are astounding. I’m with him all the way on that count.
His “Dunkirk” confused some viewers with its three asynchronous but unified stories. I felt right at home with that one. This is much more of a stretch.
In part, it’s a Bond-like spectacular with a handsome yet accessible Protagonist (John David Washington), a secret agent with ice in his veins but a beating heart that shines through his eyes. It’s not all seething rage a la Bond. There’s a villainous villain (Kenneth Branagh) ready to send the entire world into the void whose capacity to love is limited to his estranged wife (Elizabeth Debiki) who loathes him for all the right reasons. There’s the casual man of many talents and complex origins, Neill (Robert Pattinson).
But it’s much more than that. And as in “Dunkirk,” there’s time itself, with Nolan raising the intellectual stakes enough to bring theoretical physicist and Nobel-laureate Kip Thorne back again as a consultant. The special effects are there and they are made more spectacular by the work of the actors, the choreography, photography and reality filmed and played in forward and reverse simultaneously. This is not a to take lightly: go to the bathroom and miss half a dozen plot twists and clues. It’s complexity feels a bit overwhelming at times and, while the special features associated included on a separate disc satisfy some of this curiosity, it also raises a question: if it takes the actors/crew/tech folks several reads to make the necessary links in the story line, does Nolan expect us to view this several times to do the same? The answer, I think, is yes.
That caveat aside, this is a huge, intellectually interesting, and technically fascinating film. I don’t find the characters as emotionally gripping as Nolan hoped (except Branagh, who is an absolutely remarkable villain) but, regardless, I’m glad I saw this and want to see it in Imax setting it is designed for. (See what I mean?) I figure that it will double or triple it’s already $360 million (!) earned in the theaters as people rush back for a super movie rush. This is available on HBO, but I’d suggest watching the DVD for the special feature attached, and maybe even do that before you go to the theater to get a basic handle on the film and it’s story line.